On “Misinformation”

I will hopefully be adapting this comment from a FB thread into an article. Although not well-formed, I think the point is important and timely enough to be shared. It addresses the mentality of those who use the charge of “misinformation” as an evasive tactic and smear, in the context of the Budget Repair Bill fiasco.

Too many people regard their ideas as indisputable facts, primaries, or axioms; accordingly, they do not see the need to validate the basis of their “self-evident” ideas to themselves or others, and treat disagreement as one-in-the-same with ignorance. But while true and rational ideas must be derived from facts through a process of reason, most intellectual disputes pertain to this process—i.e., a person’s method of thought and conclusions—not to the facts themselves. In the vast majority of cases, their opponent disagrees with which facts are relevant, with the context in which the facts should be integrated and interpreted, with their assessments of the facts and the moral standard against which such evaluations ought to be made, etc.

For instance, many people (whether for or against the Bill) invoke the notion that public or private sector employees have better (or worse) employment conditions,* and insist that their opponents are “misinformed.” However, one could disagree both over the appropriate metric and, more fundamentally, over the relevance of this criterion. I, for one, consider it irrelevant, and am concerned instead with the manner in which individuals make their living—namely, through voluntary contractual agreements vs. expropriation.

Or take another example: It is frequently said (actually, screamed) that to be against this Bill is to be against education. The intellectual dishonesty of this charge is grotesque. Clearly, the disagreement is not over whether education is a value, but over such questions as whether it is proper or even possible to attain one’s values through coercion; whether freedom is a moral and practical precondition or preclusion of education, etc.

The above provides a cursory indication of the level at which objective persons reason and argue. Unfortunately, nearly everyone is evading this responsibility—in this issue like most others.

*It is ironic that persons who promote public unions invoke the notion that people in the private sector are better situated, as though this would be damning if true. My response: I hope they are, and merit-based compensation is one of many reasons to privatize education!

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